Happy Spring, tra-la!
It was the perfect tonic for these troubling days.
The Loved One and I took a long Sunday road trip down to the far end of the state where we visited the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial just outside of, natch, Lincoln City.
The sky was brilliant blue and perfectly clear. The temps…, um, let’s say tolerable. We walked around the grounds that include some cast replica stones that made up the Lincoln hearth and a working farm that’s a reasonably faithful repro of the L spread. The Lincoln family moved to Indiana after being ousted from their Kentucky homesteads (yeah, two of them) in ownership disputes. They remained in IN for some fourteen years before once again pulling up stakes and moving to Illinois. BTW: The Lincolns were members of a church that opposed alcohol, dancing, and slavery, proving for the umpteen zillionth time that nobody’s perfect.
Down On The Lincoln Farm
Anyway, I imagined myself actually existing in the 1820s in the heavily forested rolling terrain that was the far south of the Hoosier state. Acc’d’g to one of the info signs posted here and there, the area was populated largely by panthers, black bears, wolves, raccoons, white tail deer, woodland buffalo, wild turkeys and passenger pigeons. No mention is made of aboriginal peoples, although I have to guess at least a few native folks hung around the area.
I stood at the doorway to the farm cabin. It was made of heavily-weathered wood boards coated with pitch. I tried to tune out the faint sound of distant traffic speeding by on SR 231, about a mile and a half away. Instead, I concentrated on the chirps of titmice, carolina chickadees, and eastern phoebes, any of whom might have sung their songs in Lincoln’s day. I imagined knocking at the door and, perhaps, hearing the shuffling of shoes on the wooden floorboards inside as the occupants therein glanced at each other in surprise.
Then again, another of the info signs pointed out that the Lincolns, like most midwestern farmers of the time, spent pretty much every waking moment outside, doing stuff, important stuff, actually life-preserving stuff. They went inside, as a rule, only to eat and sleep. So, it’d be rare, if not unheard of, for anyone to have to knock on the door.
What struck me is that we have very little to do these days. The Lincolns, for instance, when they arrived at the new Indiana digs, had to saw down trees, construct a cabin as well as a much larger shelter for their cow, sheep and horses, build a plow and a yoke, sow their seeds, irrigate their crops, harvest them, sell them and eat them, sew up their own gashes, sole their shoes, keep the panthers away from their toddlers — hell, countless tasks and chores the likes of which we still wouldn’t be able to do today even after a six-month crash course in basic survival skills.
I mentioned this to TLO. She responded: “That’s true, but ironically we still don’t have all that much time for leisure.”
In any case, Lincoln, the lad, loved physical labor — apparently, he constantly wielded his axe and was quite proficient at swinging it — and was an insatiable reader. He longed to be educated. He felt, though, his bucolic roots provided little or no impetus or opportunity for book-learning. Still, he found a way to get him some.
All of which stands in stark contrast to the individual who won by technicality the presidential election last November.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Tune in Thursday for this week’s edition of Big Talk. My guest will be Jess Levandoski, one of the founders of the Middle Coast Film Festival. Jess now lives in Chicago but is dropping in on B-town this week so I snagged her for a recording session.
Upcoming Big Talks will feature, as mentioned previously, a couple of research scientists working on, respectively, olive oil and caffeine, two of my favorite substances. And then I’ll welcome Annette Oppenlander, whose latest book, Surviving the Fatherland, another in her series of historical novels, has been generating rave reviews of late.
So lend me your ears Thursdays at 5:00pm on WFHB‘s Daily Local News. My Big Talk features usually air around 5:15 and you can hear them anytime online here. One more thing: The Limestone Post will run a print bio of Annette sometime next month of in May, as part of the online mag’s “Big Mike’s B-town” series. Check out last week’s BM’s B-T on Nancy Hiller here and keep an eye out for an upcoming installment on war correspondent Doug Wissing.
Hey, I’m busy and that’s a good thing. At least it keeps me from stealing hubcaps.
The Doorbell Revolution
I’ve been twisting my imagination into a pretzel trying to figure out what I can do to stop the madness of President Gag and his mob.
Many of us on the sane side of the political spectrum, it has been reported, are suffering a malaise, sometimes even depression, and in a few cases something akin to PTSD in reaction to the ascension of L’il Duce. We feel besieged and — worse — helpless. That’s the most destructive of the effects of the perfect storm that resulted in a narcissistic lout now representing me and mine at home and throughout the world. To feel helpless too often leads only to violence against the self, be it psychological, emotional, or physical.
Here’s our clear choice:
- Do nothing and go on to hurt ourselves, up to and including numbing ourselves with substances against all the bizarrely bad news, or
- Take positive, constructive action.
Now then, regarding that substance reference — let me give you an example. My pal Charlotte Zietlow, with whom I’m working on her memoir, remembers life among the common citizenry of Czechoslovakia in the dark days after the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. That year, in response to a movement toward a more free and open society in the communist satellite, the countries of the Warsaw Pact, at the behest of their bosses in Russia, invaded the Czechoslovakia and violently quashed the reformers. Charlotte reminds us that the Czechoslovak reform movement aspired to something they referred to as “socialism with a human face.” The movement excited and heartened most Czechoslovaks. And then the tanks rolled in. Leaders were arrested. Office-holders were “re-educated.” Street protesters beaten. Spies and rats lurked around every corner. The movement seemed strangled. How did the people react? They turned inward, discouraged and disgruntled. In Charlotte’s recollection (she was there in 1969 and ’70), many, many, many of them — maybe even most of them — concerned themselves only with their little vegetable gardens and their vodka.
The Prague Spring
In other words, all they wanted to do was make sure they ate a decent supper and get bombed.
Well, goddamn it, that’s precisely not what I’m gonna do.
But what can one dope like me do?
First, alter my goals:
- I cannot change the nation in a day.
- I will begin with baby steps.
Okay? Here’s the first baby step. I propose we all make a commitment to evangelize our tiniest corner of this holy land. That is, let’s pledge to ring doorbells in 2018, the year of the mid-terms elections. Yep. Let’s press the buzzers of all the homes of our allied neighbors on each of our blocks. Let’s exhort them to get out and vote. We’ve got to put some decent human beings in office, not only for our future, but as a rebuke to the self-centered greed monkeys who’ve hijacked our governments, from the most local all the way to the national.
Let’s call it the Doorbell Revolution.
And here’s the thing. Stay away from those who are in thrall to President Gag. Let ’em be. Why argue? Don’t kid yourself that you can proselytize your L’il Duce-loving neighbors into suddenly realizing that, yes, they want all our brothers and sisters of every hue and creed to get access to quality education, health care, and economic opportunity. They don’t — and they ain’t gonna start just because you dazzle them with logic and your deep heartfelt assurance.
What matters most is to get people on our side of the fence out to vote in ’18 — and again in 2020. Strength in numbers, babies.
Sure, some of your neighbors are going to see you as a pain in the ass. That’s the chance we have to take. This is a day and age that calls for pains in the ass.
Be that pain in the ass!
BTW: That strangled movement in the then-Czechoslovakia? Within 20 years, surviving underground and taking baby steps, the leaders of the reform movement took over that country in the Velvet Revolution, lead by brilliant, heroic figures like Václav Havel. If they can do it, so can we.
It’s A Beautiful Morning